[Editors Note: UPDATE Catch the second edition of this series about the DOWNSIDES of different release schedules here. This week, columnist Hugh McIntyre explores what many independent artists often question: How often should I release music? In this installment, Hugh touts the benefits of releasing often as well as rarely. And just so we’re being fair, stay tuned for the second installment, which will cover the downsides of each strategy to consider!]
When you become a full-time musician, there is a lot to consider. What kind of artist do you want to be? Are you going to be elusive and never publish a true photo of yourself? Are you going to be the kind that inundates your fans on social media every day? Will you constantly surprise fans with music they weren’t expecting? Are you going to lead with streaming, or attempt to sell music in a time when that’s becoming less and less likely?
One of the most important decisions you need to make is how often you’ll release new music. Some artists seem to always have something you haven’t heard before, while others space out their collections, with years passing before any new material emerges. This isn’t always a decision you can make, and at times, fate and circumstances decide. Other times, you’re in power, and it’s up to you. So, what’s a working musician to do?
There are upsides to both options, and you should carefully weigh the two before choosing one to stick with for a while.
Releasing music nonstop can be tiring, but there are plenty of benefits that you’ll want to consider if you’re going to attempt to go this route, if even for a period of time.
If you continuously release new music, with only very short breaks in between new singles and albums, you’re likely going to earn more money. Simply put, if you have more products, your fans will buy more. Once somebody has ordered a song or album, they are essentially out until the next album cycle, at least in terms of purchasing music. They won’t hand over more cash for downloads or physical copies of your tunes until there is something new out there.
Constantly delivering new work also gives you an excellent opportunity to tour over and over again. If you haven’t released anything for a long time, some of your fans will still buy a ticket when you come to town, but if your show is simply you playing the same songs over and over, it won’t take long for people to decide they can wait until the next batch of tracks is shared…if they’re still interested at that point.
New music is also always a wonderful way to drum up excitement when it comes to the media. Similar to how your fans purchase music, once a blog has written about your new song, getting them to cover the same piece of music in a slightly different way is almost impossible. Blogs and magazines need new material almost as badly as your fans do. If you can continuously send the outlets that have supported you in the past solid, just-released art, there is a pretty good chance they will cover you in many different ways, and that will help your name get out there. The more often music lovers (and industry insiders, including other writers) are seeing your moniker pop up, the more likely they are to become interested and give you a listen as well. It’s a cycle that repeats and grows larger every time it comes around.
On the flip side of that argument, some acts only share new music every so often, and in some ways, that’s benefited their careers immensely.
If you’re the type of artist that spaces out album campaigns by a few years, you are less likely to experience burnout, which is a serious issue with musicians. Instead of touring all the time and constantly having to come up with new, catchy tunes, you as an artist can take your time and truly create the best work possible. That might not necessarily sound appealing in the beginning, but many artists slow down as their career progresses, simply out of necessity. If you start down that road in the beginning, your fans will know what to expect, and they won’t notice (or be disappointed) if you spend a little extra time on that next album.
There is also a perception (that is typically incorrect, but that’s not what’s being debated here) that if an artist releases new singles and albums all the time, they are somewhat less-than. While one artist may spend as many hours on a song as the next, if the first releases a track every week, the work can appear to be…cheapened in a way. It’s not necessarily fair, but that’s the perception. Consumers are more likely to spend money on things they consider to be valuable and worth their investment, and if your excelent work is something they have to wait patiently for and they are excited for it, there is probably a subset of them that group that won’t bat an eye at opening their wallet for something that seems to happen rarely, if it’s for a good reason.
Giving your music time to breathe and really get out to the world properly highlights the fact that while you’re selling music as a product, it is also ART, and it should be treated and valued as such.
In The Middle
Of course, there is always a middle ground, which is where most artists reside. Many working artists drop new collections every two years or so (or slightly more often) and tour and promote those for a long time, taking only a short break in between one cycle and the next. That is typically how the music industry has conducted business for the past few decades, and it has worked fine for a long time. Sure, things are changing, but most working acts are still able to pay the bills with that type of plan, though it’s not for everybody.